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Food Forward

By Sandra Eagle

Using local ingredients, the merging of plant and meat-protein menu options, focussing on sustainability improvements and waste reduction are leading drivers for food trends in meetings and events this year.

Executive chef at Scotiabank Convention Centre, James Price says his number one request from planners right now is plant-based options for dinner menus. “Some people are looking for plant-based egg and meat substitutes, for instance in a Bolognese sauce we can use tempeh instead of beef. We also take different approaches and look to international cuisines that are heavily vegetarian-based such as Indian chana masalas and dal.”

Stacey Newman, editor of Toronto-based Menu magazine for the Canadian restaurant industry, concurs, saying that meat and plants have morphed into a crossover zone. “People are getting out of black and white thinking, it’s not either or. The industry is discovering how to merge plant-based menus with meat on the plate.” Newman says restaurant menus tell the story of how globalized our society is. “There is so much fusion in our industry that Middle Eastern flavours such as harissa and sumac are becoming mainstream. Culinary explorations bring exotic ingredients and non-traditional pairings to a wider audience.”

Price is using local products such as Niagara cabbage to produce global-inspired dishes such as Korean kimchi. In a nod to sustainability, instead of composting mushroom stems from a local farmer, Price dries and grinds them into powder to be used in handmade cavatelli pasta. “It gives our clients a great experience and reduces the waste that goes into the landfill. We have set goals to cut down on the waste that goes out.”

Changes to the way people want to eat is another focus for Price. “I would like to see more options for family-style type of dining with larger shared plates instead of a plated menu.” Price has also seen great success with an innovation of his, called walking luncheons, at trade shows hosted by the convention centre. “We began by offering grab and go items that delegates can walk around with. We provide biodegradable utensils and materials that we can compost and it keeps delegates on the floor engaging with clients. We have a couple of different menus and are creating more.”

And last but not least, Newman says there is a huge boom in distilled non-alcoholic spirits like UK-based Seedlip and Vancouver Island-based Sheringham Distillery’s Lumette zero-proof distilled gin. “Companies like Seedlip have taken the esthetic cocktail experience to the next level.”

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